Related Sector: Expert Witness
Bond Solon sat down with Partner and Personal Injury Essentials course trainer, Amanda Hopkins of Anthony Gold Solicitors to find out more about the role of an expert witness in personal injury cases and how integral training is to the conduct and performance of an expert witness.
1. What would you say are the key roles/responsibilities of an expert witness in a typical PI case?
Expert witnesses can make or break a case. Without them, instructing solicitors cannot win or successfully defend claims. Expert witnesses must remember that their evidence should be impartial, notwithstanding who has instructed them and who is paying their fees. They are independent officers of the court. Their reports should be well reasoned and comply with their obligations under CPR Part 35.
In personal injury cases where liability is disputed, experts are needed to determine if there is a case to answer. The field of expertise will differ according to the accident circumstances, but common liability experts are engineers, health and safety experts and experts in road traffic accidents.
Medical experts are needed to comment on the nature of the injuries, to what extent these have been caused by the accident and to provide an opinion on prognosis. Where the injuries are complex, there will be a number of experts instructed and each of their reports will form a piece of the jigsaw. Experts are therefore expected to report within the context of the claim as a whole, not in isolation.
Quantum expert witnesses are also needed to assist solicitors in valuing the claim. Care experts, accommodation experts, prosthetic experts, employment experts, pension experts are just a few of those commonly involved in personal injury cases.
The nature of the case will determine what experts are needed. With the potential for there to be numerous experts instructed on one case, it is essential to the instructing solicitor that experts know what they are doing.
2. What are some of the common mistakes you see experts make in PI cases?
‘Mistakes’ are rare, thankfully. A most frustrating one is an expert taking on instructions when they don’t actually have time to do the report and follow-up work to trial. Waiting six months for a report because an expert has overstretched themselves can have catastrophic implications – lost expert conferences, missed court deadlines and stale evidence are a few examples. Another ‘mistake’ is the expert failing to provide an opinion. Experts are not instructed to sit on the fence. Failing to comply with CPR 35 is also sometimes seen. For example, in the case of Palmer v Mantas  when the expert made some ‘’judgemental and rather scathing comments’’ suggesting a ‘’level of unconscious bias’’ – read more about the case here. This is not something which fills an instructing solicitor with confidence.
3. What do you look for in an expert when instructing on a PI case?
Reputation is key for an expert. This is not limited to how experienced and eminent an expert is in their field, it also relates to how they perform as an expert. The most attractive experts manage their diaries well, are responsive to their instructing solicitors, are punctual with their reports and responses, understand their obligations under CPR 35 and remain up to date with their training.
4. How integral is training to expert witnesses, particularly in PI cases?
It’s difficult to see how experts can build and maintain a good reputation as an expert in the absence of training. As practices and procedures develop and change, experts need to be aware of such changes and understand how their medico-legal work is impacted. Training is not just for those new to medico-legal work. Knowledge and understanding need continual refreshment, the same as any profession.
Amanda and her fellow Partner, Jackie Spinks, will be exploring the above themes in much more detail during the following half-day workshops (virtual):
Personal Injury Essentials Part 1: The law and the expert's role from instruction to settlement on 29 November 2022 (9:30am to 12:30pm)
Personal Injury Essentials Part 2: A practical guide to being a personal injury expert witness on 6 December 2022 (9:30am to 12:30pm)
These workshops have been designed especially for expert witnesses (medical and non-medical) specialising in the personal injury field and will be of particular interest to those wishing to develop their knowledge and skills in dealing with high value and complex cases.
To find out more about the courses, or secure your place, please contact a member of the Bond Solon team on 020 7549 2549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you require any help or would like to discuss how Bond Solon can assist you in your training needs, please call us on: +44 (0) 20 7549 2549